Convert a Laptop With a Broken Screen Into a Quiet, Space Saving Desktop

Introduction: Convert a Laptop With a Broken Screen Into a Quiet, Space Saving Desktop

About: I'm just a compulsive DIYer that plays guitar and tries to fix just about everything around the house and garage. Sometimes I even succeed!

This is one of those easy mods that just presented itself. The PC in my home recording studio was really in need of upgrading and I didn't want to spend much money to do it. A friend had an Asus laptop (Pentinum dual core, 4 GB RAM) with a missing screen that was much more powerful than the single core Althlon (3 GB RAM) that I had been using.

Switching over to this laptop had several advantages:

1. Win 7 - I could now have Win 7 in the studio. For some reason I couldn't get the old PC to run Win 7. It was still on XP. Plus I had problems getting to my home network with XP.

2. Quiet! The laptop makes NO noise. The old desktop had plenty of fan noise. I had to turn it off if I wanted to record.

3. Small footprint - I mounted the laptop up on it's side behind some other stuff. Suddenly I was able to open up a 18" x 24" space on the desk!

4. All of the connections were easily available! I didn't think about this until I started hooking things up.

The challenges were:

1. Getting the laptop to always boot directly into an external monitor.

2. How to turn on the laptop without opening the lid. I wanted to keep the keys covered, but accessible in case I needed to get to them later. Plus keeping the lid on made it easier to find a place to put the laptop.


Eye protection when you are drilling - the plastic will be going all over when you drill. Plastic shards in your eyes is painful.

Cut resistant gloves if you use a utility knife to trim the access hole.


Tape measure

Painter's Tape

Mechanics gloves

Drill with hole saw (1-1/4")

Utility knife

Pencil, pen, marker whatever

Step 1: Access External Monitor

The first thing to do is make sure you can actually access an external monitor and get the laptop to automatically start with the external screen.

1. Hook up the external monitor and boot up the laptop. The external monitor MIGHT turn on by itself... or maybe not. If it doesn't, then:

2. Hit F8 to switch monitors. (This might be different depending on your laptop brand.) The external monitor should turn on now.

3. Tell the operating system to always use the external monitor. To do this in Win 7:

a. Right click on the desktop. A little dialog box will open.

b. Select "Screen Resolution". The "Screen Resolution" dialog box will open.

i. For the "Display" choices - I went with "Multiple Monitors" because it worked fine and may be easier if I need to make some changes in the future.

ii. For "Multiple displays" - I selected "Duplicate these displays". Again, just to keep things simple.

c. Click "OK" and you're done.

4. Reboot the laptop and it should boot directly onto the external monitor.

Step 2: Add the Power Button Access Hole - Remove/move Extraneous Stuff

Because the screen was already out of the laptop, it was just a matter of locating where I needed to put the hole so I can push the power button with the lid closed. Before I actually did any measuring or cutting, I made sure all electrical connections/etc were not in the way.

In my case, this was easy because the screen was already taken out.

Step 3: Add the Power Button Access Hole - Drill the Hole

1. Open the lip and measure the location of the power button relative to the sides of the laptop.

2. Transfer those measurements to the lid. I put tape on the top first to make the marks more visible.

a. Double check where the hole will be relative to any critical items on the backside of the lid. For me, I needed to move the center a little to the left to avoid the lid hinge.

3. Drill the access hole. Nothing like using a 1-1/4" hole saw on your laptop!

a. Position the laptop so the lid is open while you are drilling.

b. Gently/slowly drill into the plastic - I stopped when the foil on the lid's backside was just starting to show. I used a utility knife to cut through the foil and finish/clean out the access hole. I was worried that using the hole saw on the foil might cause the foil to get all bunched up and tear - and not getting a clean cut.

4. Close the lid and check thing out. Take off the tape and clean up the plastic dust mess.

Step 4: Final Install and Final Thoughts

This last part was fun. I was able find a place to mount the laptop up on it's side, out of the way and with the power button easy to get to. The unit is sitting up on a some blocks and all the sides are fairly open to help with ventilation. Using the blocks let me position a big workstation device back to it's original position because the blocks made room for the cable connects in the back of the workstation.

Getting the extra space on the desk was a BIG bonus for me. Seems like there's always a shortage of space.

In closing, this was a big win for me all the way around. Faster processor, easier access to connections, quiet, OS upgrade, access to home network. One caveat, if the laptop still had the screen, I'm not sure I would have gone this route.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if I need to make any corrections. Thanks for reading!

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    Question 2 years ago on Introduction

    How can I change the setting for the monitor. If there is no screen to start with?


    Answer 2 years ago

    Excellent question - some of this will take some experimentation. To start, I would just hook up an external monitor and see if it comes on when you boot up the laptop. If not, try to figure out which function button changes the screen selection. Other options include, turning on the laptop and THEN plugging in the external monitor (and play with the function key if needed, etc.). Sometimes you might need to try a different monitor as well. One thing to keep in mind is that if it's old laptop without a screen, it may have other problems as well (like not being able to hook up to an external monitor). Good luck and let us know if you get it going!


    5 years ago

    Finding this late, but i didnt see anything about the added bonus of the built in UPS.


    Reply 5 years ago

    That's a good point... **IF** the battery is still good. By the time I get a hand-me-down laptop, the batteries are generally shot. But I hadn't even thought about that until you brought it up. You're right, a built in UPS could be a huge bonus in a studio setting! Thanks for bringing that up!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Look in the "Power Options" section of the control panel. One of the options for laptops is "Choose what closing the lid does" located in the list in the left side column. Also, there are some more options for how the laptop will act with lid, power button, etc in different settings if you create/alter a "Power Plan". For those unfamiliar with a "Power Plan", it's basically the rules that the laptop follows with regards to power use in various scenarios that allow you to determine the point where performance versus power/battery use intersect. For example, in this scenario, you can max out performance settings since it's probably always plugged in and battery life isn't a concern, as well as lid closed action, what the power button does when pushed, and so on.

    By the way, I've been doing this sort of thing for a while and am surprised at how much value you can find in laptops like this and for how cheap people are willing to sell them for. This is one of the top two ways to get maximum return on minimal cost unless, of course, you are concerned with appearance/hung up on getting a new machine.


    8 years ago

    what do you do about shutting down with the lid closed? is it ONLY a soft setting?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It might be when you have two screens going (or just an external screen) the lid switch may be inactive. But I didn't test that specifically because I always had to use an external screen from the get-go on this project. Good point though - some people might need to make a change in the OS to allow the lid to close and the system stay on.


    Reply 8 years ago

    okay, thanks. I'll look for it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It was on my laptop, under power settings somewhere.